An unhealthy culture


The notion of ‘drinking culture’ or ‘alcohol culture’ is commonly referred to across public health, the media and the alcohol industry, to highlight a problem with the Australian drinking culture and the need for it to change.


In recent years, VicHealth has explored what we actually mean when we talk about alcohol culture and noted the need for the term to be defined for public health purposes, rather than being captured by other interests.


In collaboration with our key partners in alcohol harm prevention, VicHealth has developed a shared understanding of alcohol culture, which defines it as the way a group of people drink, including their shared understandings of formal rules, social norms, practices, values and beliefs around what is and what is not socially acceptable when they get together.


This understanding of alcohol culture will guide efforts to build evidence-based strategies for alcohol harm reduction through influencing culture, an approach we call Alcohol Culture Change.


Alcohol Culture Change recognises that shifting the social norms which support risky drinking is key to changing the drinking culture in Australia. It complements other actions including whole-of-population approaches (e.g. through policy and regulation) and targeted activity that works closely with groups of people (e.g. settings-based approaches) or individuals (e.g. individual behaviour change approaches).


The Alcohol Cultures Framework is a planning tool for those with an interest in changing risky drinking cultures to reduce harm from alcohol products. This Framework has been used to guide VicHealth's investments in Alcohol Culture Changes.